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Some behind bars will eat well today; others will not

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Posted: Thursday, November 24, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 8:06 am, Thu Nov 24, 2011.

Inmates in California prisons are behind bars for a number of reasons, be it grand theft, fraud or murder. But today, criminals will have something special to be thankful for — a hot Thanksgiving meal.

Of the 365 days a year that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has to feed the inmates in all 33 state prisons, only four of those days are reserved for special holiday meals. Thanksgiving just happens to be one of those days.

The Lodi Police Department, meanwhile, will be serving TV turkey dinners for those who are arrested and end up staying in the Lodi Jail on Thanksgiving.

Spokespersons for the San Joaquin County Jail were unable to say what exactly would be served at the jail today.

Typically, state prison cooks serve a standardized menu to inmates housed in every prison.

But according to Laurie Maurino, the Departmental Food Administrator for California Department of Corrections. of the four holidays a year where the institutions can serve whatever they wish, Thanksgiving meals will consist of traditional options, from savory, roasted turkey to mashed potatoes and gravy.

"Inmates get upset if it is not the traditional menu, especially if they don't serve pumpkin pie," she said.

But Maurino added that outside food from family members is not allowed, even if it is the best pecan pie or green bean casserole around.

"There would be too much opportunity to smuggle drugs in," she said. "The visiting room has vending machines where families can buy inmates food, but no other food is allowed."

In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, $158 million was allocated to the department for food, which works out to approximately $2.90 per inmate, per day.

Generally, holiday food menus would be absorbed into the prison's general food budget, Verke said.

And while the exact cost of the inmate's Thanksgiving meal could not be determined for Folsom State Prison, spokesperson Lt. Paul Baker said for the most part, inmates are appreciative of the meals.

In the Folsom prison, for example, Baker said the day will begin as usual, but the count — checking to make every inmate is present — which typically starts at 5 p.m. and lasts about two hours, will begin a half-hour earlier so those who are incarcerated can have more time to eat a bigger meal.

Whether an inmate is on death row or serving a short stint behind bars, there is no discrimination when it comes to a Thanksgiving meal, Baker added.

And while families may not be able to share an evening meal with inmates at one of the 33 prisons, they will be able to visit between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. or 3:30 p.m., depending on the location.

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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  • Richard Turner posted at 6:50 am on Fri, Nov 25, 2011.

    Richard Turner Posts: 80

    It is Prison , years ago you were lucky to get bread and water !! I do feel bad that anyone is behind bars but, what if your loved one was murdered and the person that committed this crime was safe warm and enjoying a nice thanksgiving diner ?

  • David Ross posted at 10:58 pm on Thu, Nov 24, 2011.

    damiross Posts: 1

    What bunk!
    Based on experience of visiting my girlfriend in Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) over the past year:
    - the vending machines in the visiting rooms are overpriced. At one time they had 2 (two) ears of corn plus 2 pats of butter for $6.00. This is for corn that, at the time, cost 16 cents each at Safeway. Small bags of potato chips go for $1.25
    - A 12 ounce can of soda goes for $1.25.

    The food served the inmates is full of grease. Any resemblance to a real Thanksgiving dinner is in name only. Daily they have mystery meat. The mystery is to find out which of the 4,000 inmates has received the meat On the 4th of July, they served corn dogs. They removed the sticks from each one of the corn dogs!

    The visiting hours at VSPW are 9:00 to 3:00. Due to the slow processing of visitors and the need for the prisoner to walk to the visiting center, no one is able to see his loved one for the full 6 hours. (Today's (Thanksgiving Day), the visting hours were cut by 30 minutes.)

    Mr. Baker is not telling the truth. The meals aren't bigger, at least at VSPW.



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